Best of Design 2022: Outdoor Space
Designer Lauren Levant created a modern Italian vineyard in the backyard of Michael and Kim Pezzone’s suburban home.
Michael and Kim Pezzone had a vision. Inspired by their travels, as well as Michael’s Italian heritage, the couple — both physicians — dreamt of bringing the vineyards of Italy to their backyard in Upper St. Clair.
The Pezzones, who also have spent time in the Napa and Sonoma regions of California, love to cook for their four sons, extended family and friends — and they even make their own wine.
“It’s become a hobby that we really enjoy,” Kim says. “We hoped to capture that and translate that into the space.”
To do so, the couple enlisted Pittsburgh-based interior designer Lauren Levant to transform their yard into a modern Italian vineyard, one that’s as show-stopping and luxurious as it is functional and practical.
“I wanted to create a space that gave others a glimpse into everything the family enjoys,” Levant says. “Making pizzas, making wine, cooking and eating together and just having fun.”
One of the space’s standouts is the entrance, which features a striking gate and pathway bordered with tall arborvitae trees and fig trees, as well as planters filled with lavender and fresh Italian herbs used for Kim’s favorite recipes.
It was just one of the features impressing this year’s Best of Design judges, who named it their Best Outdoor Space for 2022.
“When you walk around the corner, wow,” says judge Crystal DeCastro Knapik, a senior project designer at Cleveland-based architecture firm Vocon. “I like the layers they have in the landscape.”
Despite being 6 inches deep, the entrance’s porcelain-clad, concrete planter walls appear paper-thin. Levant says her zero-edge design utilized beveled edges and Porcelanosa tile to create their modern, organic aesthetic.
The path flows seamlessly to the outdoor kitchen, Mike’s favorite part of the new design. Overlooking the pool is a spacious island with seating that features Dekton by Cosentino countertops, a stain-resistant, low-maintenance material that has a smooth stone appearance. There’s also a grill, sink and pizza oven encased in custom steel cabinetry. Levant calls the space a low-maintenance, yet striking, mixture of function and form.
“The serving counter is a fun and beautiful place to be,” she says. “There’s enough space to house their pool gear as well as food items.”
A statement-making, 22-foot-long glass sliding door separates the outdoor kitchen from its indoor counterpart, a smart design move that allows both spaces to flow.
“If I’m inside our kitchen, and my husband is outside working in the pizza oven, we’re able to communicate,” Kim says. “The entire design gives us connectivity.”
Adding to the beauty is the patio’s grid-like design, constructed with pavers made of rectified porcelain and black pea stone. Depending on the time of day, the trellises cast intentional shadows on it.
“When you stand looking down from one end of the trellis to the other it’s just visually stunning,” Kim says.
As a nod to the Italian vineyards, Levant also designed a series of custom aluminum trellises (some hung with outdoor chandeliers) for the family’s wine making that encompass the eating area. As the arbor’s grape vines mature, they’ll grow across the trellises, creating an intimate dining space below the lighting.
“This is a design that’s intended to grow with the family and become more and more beautiful over time,” Levant says.
Interior Designer: Lauren Levant Interior
General Contractor: TK Construction
Cabinetry: Lauren Levant Custom Cabinetry
Countertops: Cosentino Group
Rectified Porcelain Pavers: Landmark
Porcelain Tile Cladding: Porcelanosa
Outdoor Appliances: Alfresco
Appliance Distributor: Voss Appliance.